Uber agrees to buy 24,000 Volvo SUVs in its march toward self-driving vehicles

November 21, 2017

Uber will purchase up to 24,000 Volvo XC90 SUVs between 2019 and 2021, the ride-sharing company announced Monday. According to Volvo, the vehicles are an “autonomous driving-compatible base.” As the name suggests, they constitute the next step for Uber as the rideshare company looks for ways to implement the self-driving technologies it has been developing.

While no terms were disclosed, the move is an extension of Uber’s previous engineering collaboration with the Swedish carmaker that produced semi-autonomous XC90s on the streets of Pittsburgh. The final sum could be as high as $1.8 billion, according to reports.

“Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing service providers globally,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo’s president and CEO.

What makes this partnership different is that—at least at face value—there’s little new technology transfer beyond the earlier agreement. Volvo will supply XC90s pre-configured with an array of sensors and “all necessary safety, redundancy and core autonomous driving technologies,” but Uber will be responsible for the actual software that drives the vehicles.

That software responsibility is a key point, because it means Uber, not Volvo, will assume liability in the event of a collision.

The sheer size of Uber’s fleet order is relevant, as well. With more than 2 million drivers already on its payroll, a mere 24,000 vehicles hardly makes a dent. That said, producing so many vehicles with self-driving compatible equipment represents a significant leap forward. The announcement comes just months after Waymo and Chrysler embarked on their partnership that will eventually result in 600 driverless minivans.

“This new agreement puts us on a path towards mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale,” said Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of auto alliances.

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